Joshua McCarthy, 17, a junior at Eastern Hills High School, says he’ll be extra careful riding his motorcycle to school now.
He doesn’t want to damage the new laptop the Fort Worth school district gave him and hundreds of other students at Eastern Hills.
“It will be safe in my backpack,” McCarthy said.
The district plans to distribute 20,000-22,000 laptops to high school students by March 2016. They were bought with money from the bond issue approved by voters in November 2013.
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The initiative is called DiG iN, for digital initiative, and will provide every high school student in the district the opportunity to “check out” a laptop for $15 a semester.
“We were the first school to do it in FWISD,” Eastern Hills Principal Chad McCarty said Monday. “It was all eyes on us.”
More than 300 students received laptops Saturday, McCarty said. By Monday, they were already emailing assignments and questions about grades to their teachers.
“Communications are going to open up and the transparency is going to be evident,” McCarty said.
Many of the students at Eastern Hills could not afford a $900 computer, McCarty said. More than 70 percent of the students are considered socio-economically disadvantaged, he said. The school enrolls about 1,200 students, he said.
Some students are saving up lunch money to pay the $15 technology usage fee, McCarty said.
“I told them, if you save your money for the laptops, it’s worth it,” he said.
The district began planning the laptop initative years ago, said Becky Navarre, assistant superintendent of technology.
“Other districts were doing it and questions started coming up from the community as to why weren’t we doing those types of things,” Navarre said. “We did a lot of investigating and decided we wanted to provide the laptops.”
Officials hope students will become computer-savvy to prepare for college, McCarty and Navarre said.
“The one thing I told the technology department is that we have to make sure it [the laptop] outdoes the phone,” McCarty said.
In March 2014, the district tested the laptop rental program by providing devices to about 70 students from area high schools. They were asked to provide feedback. The students came up with the DiG iN name.
“Students’ voices have been important since the very beginning,” Navarre said.
To receive a laptop, each student is required to attend a 20-minute “digital citizenship” orientation and the family must sign an acceptance form.
The laptop comes wtih a power cord and a bag.
Jeremiah Garnett, 17, a senior, said he reported to school Saturday to pick up his.
“They’re great,” Garnett said. “I’ll be able to use it to do school work and get more stuff done ... actually keeping up with more stuff rather than losing paperwork.”
Next in line: Western Hills High School, which is expected to receive its laptops Jan. 26.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705
Upcoming laptop deployment
Western Hills High– during the school day Jan. 26-28
North Side and South Hills high schools – 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 31
Dunbar and Arlington Heights high schools – 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 7
Source: Fort Worth school district